For many of us, anti-perspirant is our go-to product for feeling fresh on warm summer days or during stressful situations. Anti-perspirant is specially designed to reduce the amount we sweat and in this guide, we look at how it works to specifically tackle sweat and what else you can do to keep sweat at bay for longer.
On this page, we answer your top questions on anti-perspirant and sweat including:
- How does anti-perspirant help prevent sweating?
- What is ‘stress sweat’ and how can anti-perspirant help?
- What are the benefits of wearing scented anti-perspirant?
- What causes anti-perspirant sweat stains and how can I remove them?
- Where on the body can I use anti perspirant?
- Can I stop armpit sweat without anti-perspirant?
- Does anti-perspirant stop sweat completely?
How does anti-perspirant help prevent sweating?
The ingredients in an anti-perspirant typically include aluminium salts (such as aluminium chlorohydrate), which, when in contact with the skin’s moisture, form a protective gel layer. This layer temporarily plugs the sweat ducts and helps prevent sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. The result? Lovely dry armpits!
If you apply anti-perspirant to clean, dry skin, and leave it to dry before getting dressed, then the protective plug can remain in place for many hours, even if you have a shower or go swimming. This is why anti-perspirants are labelled as offering 24-hour or 48-hour protection.
How long your anti-perspirant lasts will depend on how much you sweat. You may find you need to reapply more often if you’re working out, or if it’s a warm day and you’re sweating more than usual.
What is ‘stress sweat’ and how can anti-perspirant help?
We’ve all felt that feeling in a stressful situation—clammy palms, pounding heart, dry mouth—and, to top it all off, you might notice that your sweat has an unpleasant smell too.
You might spend an hour working out in the gym and not notice any odour, but 10 minutes in a high-pressure meeting or on a packed tube and you begin to smell your sweat quite strongly.
Stress sweat (also known as nervous sweating) smells worse than regular sweat because when we’re stressed, the body produces sweat from:
- the eccrine sweat glands—the glands that produce regular sweat
- the apocrine sweat glands—the glands responsible for producing stress sweat
Sweat from the apocrine glands doesn’t actually smell worse than regular sweat, but it doesn’t evaporate as quickly as regular sweat1 and it contains nutrients that bacteria love to feast on2 (we know, it’s gross!). It’s the bacteria feeding on the sweat that produces the unpleasant smell.
Using an anti-perspirant on clean, dry skin is one of the best ways to help prevent stress sweat (or any type of sweat in fact!). Applying anti-perspirant means less eccrine and apocrine sweat will reach your skin’s surface, meaning the bacteria on your skin will have less sweat to feed on.
You could also try a quick spritz of deodorant or anti-perspirant to your underarm area in a morning, after applying anti-perspirant at night:
- Deodorant contains odour-fighting ingredients
- Anti-perspirants containing aluminium salts have strong anti-microbial benefits in fighting odour-causing bacteria.
So applying a little of either product in a morning, especially one with a fragrance you love, will mean you’ll have a double defence against the smell of stress sweat.
What are the benefits of wearing scented anti-perspirant?
Beautiful fragrances can boost your mood and make you feel more confident3. Combine this with the sweat-reducing properties of anti-perspirant and you’ll be ready for whatever the day has in store for you!
If you’re looking for an anti-perspirant that contains some lovely fragrances, then Soft & Gentle’s new Skin Protect range includes fine fragrances containing ethically sourced essential oils. There are four fragrances to choose from; Orange & White Ginger, Sheer Rose & Lavender, Magnolia & Geranium, and Ylang Ylang & Almond Oil.
The Skin Protect range is infused with nourishing coconut and jojoba organic oils, making it suitable for sensitive skin while still offering lovely fragrances.
What causes anti-perspirant sweat stains and how can I remove them?
It isn’t the sweat itself that leaves patches and stains on your clothing, but the interaction of your sweat with the ingredients in your anti-perspirant, most notably the aluminium salts.
You can find out more about what causes yellow stains, and what you can do about them, with our guide How to remove anti-perspirant stains from clothes.
Can I use anti-perspirant on other areas of my body?
As the human body has up to five million sweat glands4, you’ve no doubt noticed that it’s not just your armpits that sweat! Anti-perspirant can help reduce the amount you sweat on other areas of your body, from your toes to your chest, not just under your arms.
If you suffer from sweaty feet or sweaty palms, or are bothered by sweat on other areas of your body, read our guide Where on your body you can use anti-perspirant.
Can I stop armpit sweat without anti-perspirant?
Most anti-perspirants contain aluminium salts, the active ingredients that block sweat glands and so reduce the amount you sweat. There are other active ingredients, such as astringents like the plant horsetail, which help to minimise pore size, meaning less sweat can reach the surface of your skin. Products containing these are a great choice if you’re looking for an alternative to aluminium salts.
Soft & Gentle’s 0% Aluminium anti-perspirant roll-on range offers 24 hours of sweat protection and features naturally derived extracts (such as horsetail and bamboo powder) that help reduce sweat and mask unpleasant smells. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to skin irritation and you’re worried about using anti-perspirant with aluminium, the 0% Aluminium range is gentler on the skin.
Does anti-perspirant stop sweat completely?
Although the active ingredients in anti-perspirant helps to reduce the amount you sweat, it can’t stop you sweating completely. This is because sweating is the body’s natural way of regulating your temperature. You’re also likely to sweat more when you’re stressed.
So if you’re feeling hot or anxious, you’ll continue to sweat, even if you’re wearing anti-perspirant. You’ll just sweat less than if you hadn’t applied anti-perspirant.
If you sweat a lot, this can make the anti-perspirant less effective. If you find you do sweat excessively, it’s worth speaking to your GP as it may be a medical condition called hyperhidrosis.